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Monday, January 12, 2004

The Rubber Glove Treatment

Well, time to get out the flashlight and the rubber gloves, and fact-check CBS's nether regions.

Both LGF and InstaPundit point to this Power Line post about "revelations" that author Ron Suskind made on 60 Minutes, about a document given to him by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts". (Note that Power Line gets the title slightly wrong, calling it "Iraq Oilfield" instead of "Iraqi Oilfield"; this matters when you're trying to do a Google search.)

The teaser story for this 60 Minutes report says clearly that this is a Pentagon document, dated March of 2001. The implication is that the Administration was at that time already plotting to overthrow Saddam. Power Line points out that Judicial Watch obtained these documents months ago from Cheney's energy task force, and not from the Pentagon. (I gather that this is the "hoax" part of their title).

But CBS knew that, because they had a story on it in July (in the "other developments" section, fourth item down):

Documents from Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force include a map of Iraq's oilfields and a list of international oil companies labeled "foreign suitors for Iraqi oilfield contracts." The panel also had similar maps and lists for other oil-producing states. Their purpose to the task force was unclear. The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to force the release of task force documents.

So CBS not only knew these were not Pentagon documents, but knew they contained information about other countries besides Iraq. Power Line points out that the presence of the information about other countries casts doubt on the idea that the documents were intended as precursors to an invasion of Iraq.

I stopped watching 60 Minutes, formerly one of my favorite programs, about a decade ago, when I no longer could stomach Leslie Stahl's obviously carefully-rehearsed outrage. So I didn't see the show; maybe they called Suskind on this point. If not, I want to know whether CBS ever checks its own database for relevant information. Remember, this is why we need Big Media: quality control.

(Daniel Drezner has part of the 60 Minutes transcript for this episode, and there's no mention of it in the portion he reproduces.)

I posted a similar comment over at LGF (the comment has a roundabout link to the July CBS story; I've got the direct link above), but apparently no one thought it was interesting. I also emailed Glenn, and while he was kind enough to note another question I had, he didn't think the CBS part was interesting either. So I figured I'd post it here.

I still don't understand what the big deal is. If you believe that Bush was slavering for a reason to invade Iraq and grab all that juicy oil, then it hardly matters whether the document belonged to Hell's Cadre at the Pentagon, or was the property of Halliburton's own Saruman. Similar information on Saudi Arabia and the UAE only means that they better watch out, or the Bushitler will get them, too!